Philadelphia, Pa. – The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which works with the private sector and PHA Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama to end the childhood obesity crisis, today announced that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association has joined its efforts to help make communities across America healthier. Over the next year, BCBSA will support the creation of 40 new Play Streets – roads closed to traffic and open to the community to encourage physical activity. Play Streets offer a high-impact way to encourage more physical activity, particularly in neighborhoods that lack open space.
“Every day, local officials like these are changing our children’s lives and helping them learn and grow and fulfill every last bit of their potential. And thanks to the commitments we’re announcing today, our cities, towns and counties will be able to do even more,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “We still have a long way to go to solve this problem. But if leaders like these keep coming to the table and we all keep working together, then I am confident that we can give all our children the happy, healthy futures they so richly deserve.”
PHA and BCBSA are inviting cities and towns across the United States to apply for funding that will support local efforts to get kids and communities out and active by creating at least four Play Streets per locality. PHA’s Play Streets program is flexible, allowing localities to tailor the program to their needs and resources. Cities can close one to two blocks at a time, partner with farmers’ markets or parks to maximize space, or close many miles of streets. Already, several cities and towns across the country – from San Francisco to Fort Worth to Chicago – have successfully launched their own Play Streets.
“For more than 80 years, the Blues® have made a difference in the lives of the communities they serve. One area of specific focus for all Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies is the health and wellness of children and reversing the trend of childhood obesity,” said Scott P. Serota, BCBSA president and CEO. “It is going to take a collaborative effort to make a difference in this growing epidemic and the Blues are looking forward to working alongside PHA, city officials and local community partners to organize and successfully launch Play Streets events across the country.”
Ten recipients will receive funds, technical assistance, and communications and marketing support from PHA and BCBSA for Play Street events in their city or town. Winning cities will be chosen based on their ongoing commitment to increasing physical activity among kids; health education and programming; sustainability of the program; and community development.
“We know that, for a number of reasons, most kids do not get the recommended 60 minutes a day of physical activity,” said PHA CEO Lawrence A. Soler. “Lack of safe places to play, limited access to playgrounds or parks, and busy schedules are just a few of the reasons kids aren’t as active as they used to be. As a leader in the health insurance industry, BCBSA understands that ending the childhood obesity epidemic is going to take work from all of us, at all levels—including addressing the challenges that lay before us in a creative manner.”
The Play Streets program is one solution to the low-activity lifestyles hurting America’s youth. Participating cities have seen an immediate impact. In New York City, 64 percent of the kids using Play Streets reported that, if not for the local Play Street, they would have been engaged in a sedentary activity; 71 percent reported that they walked to the Play Street, an added benefit. The same survey also pointed to the promise that Play Streets holds for local economic development; area businesses reported that foot traffic around the Play Streets increased greatly.
PHA today released the Request For Proposal, available at www.ahealthieramerica.org/playstreetsRFP. RFP submissions are due on August 29, 2012.
About Partnership for a Healthier America
Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is devoted to working with the private sector to ensure the health of our nation’s youth by solving the childhood obesity crisis. In 2010, PHA was created in conjunction with – but independent from – First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! effort. PHA is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that is led by some of the nation's most respected health and childhood obesity experts. PHA brings together public, private and nonprofit leaders to broker meaningful commitments and develop strategies to end childhood obesity. Most important, PHA ensures that commitments made are commitments kept by working with unbiased, third parties to monitor and publicly report on the progress our partners are making. For more information about PHA, please visit www.aHealthierAmerica.org and follow PHA on Twitter @PHAnews.